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Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Chapter 26
By Indradyumna Swami

Volume 3, Chapter 26

March 1-3, 2001

On March 1, I woke up with my left eye quivering. I remembered reading somewhere in Srila Prabhupada's books that such quivering is either an auspicious or inauspicious omen. I wanted to check the books to find out which one it was, but by the time I finished my rounds and did my puja it was time to go on sankirtan. Mahesvara dasa, a disciple of Bhakti Caru Maharaja, picked me up at 9am and we left for our appointments.

Out first stop was a printing office, where a gentleman named Peter greeted us warmly. Peter has been a donor of mine for many years, and I keep in regular touch with him. A pious man, he believes in God but sometimes complains that He is "a little late in answering my prayers,” or "sometimes doesn't reply at all!" We sat chatting about the recent earthquake in Gujarat, India, and I explained to him about the law of karma. Years ago, he wouldn't have been interested in such philosophy, but our friendship has made him receptive and he listened carefully, considering all the points I made. Later, as he wrote a check to help my Festival of India in Poland, I noticed a large frame on the wall behind his desk. It contained a quote written in old-style English fonts describing the glory of a printing house. I thought that with a few small adjustments, it nicely described the purpose of our own Bhaktivedanta Book Trust publishing house:

This is a printing office Crossroads of civilization Refuge of all the arts Against the ravages of time Armory of fearless truth Against whispering rumor Incessant trumpet of trade From this place words may fly abroad Not to perish on the waves of sound Not to vary with the writer's hand But fixed in time, having been verified in proof Friend, you are standing on sacred ground This is a BBT (sic) printing office!

As we drove around Port Elizabeth looking for a bank to cash the check, I was little nervous because we had to pass through several African townships, or ghettos. Most of the black and colored people of South Africa still live in impoverished conditions, despite the breakdown of apartheid in the country several years ago. As a result, a significant amount resort to crime to survive. Mahesvara was telling me that a number of his friends had been recent victims of burglary, car theft or mugging. He said the police are often slow to respond to crimes because the local gangs have more sophisticated weapons than they. The police even hire well-armed security guards to protect their station!

Recently, the secretary of one of Mahesvara's close relatives was kidnapped along with her car by a man at a red-light traffic signal in downtown Port Elizabeth. She survived only because when the kidnapper stopped at the next signal and opened his door to shout to a friend, the young lady gave him such a kick that he literally fell out of the vehicle. She jumped into the driver's seat and sped away.

The other evening Mahesvara himself was driving home from work, when suddenly he saw a row of bricks across the road in front of him. Knowing it was a trap he accelerated over the barricade, blowing his two front tires as he managed to get away. In his rear-view mirror, he saw the men who wanted to accost him run out from the bushes cursing.

After hearing all that, I wondered once again if I had come to the right place to collect funds. I thought to myself, "What I go through for the people of Poland!"

When we finally found the right bank to cash the check, I entered the building and waited in line. I had a strange feeling that something was wrong. As the lady in front of me cashed her own check and put what appeared to be a large sum of money into her purse, I looked around nervously. Walking past me and through the door, she was suddenly attacked by thieves who grabbed her bag and ran. As she screamed and people panicked, the security guards drew their guns but didn't fire because of the large crowd. As they starting chasing the thieves, I took my money from the cashier and quickly left the scene.

Ten minutes later, as we turned a corner on the way to our next appointment, two men spilled on to the road engaged in a brutal fight. Bleeding profusely, they were lunging at each other with knives as a large crowd gathered on the side of the road. Swerving to avoid the men, we sped away.

As if that wasn't enough, 2km down the road we witnessed a terrible car accident. Figuring that the stars weren't with us that day, I concluded that the best thing to do was return home and chant, so Mahesvara drove me back. That afternoon, out of curiosity I looked up references to omens in Srila Prabhupada's books, and concluded I would have been better off to have done so that morning!

artha vraje mahotpatas tri vidha hy ati darunah utpetur bhuvi divvy atmany asana bhaya samsinah

"In the Vrindavan area there then arose all three types of fearful omens; those on the earth, those in the sky and those in the bodies of living creatures - which announced imminent danger. "

Purport: "According to Srila Sridhara Swami, the omens were as follows: on the earth there were disturbing tremors, in the sky there were meteors falling, and in the bodies of creatures there was shivering, as well as quivering of the left eye and other parts of the body. These omens announce imminent danger. " [SB 10. 16. 12]

I didn't go out the rest of the day, but chanted and sat daydreaming that perhaps one day Krishna would send a generous sponsor my way who would support my preaching. Recently, a devotee wrote to me that she didn't feel it appropriate for sannyasis to collect money. I replied that I fully agreed with her, but that currently I had no choice. I told her that last year more than 750, 000 people walked through the gates of our Polish festival. That's no ordinary Sunday Feast program! I wrote that big preaching requires sufficient funds. Srila Prabhupada himself writes in Bhagavad-gita:

"Every endeavor requires land, capital, organization and labor. Just as in business one requires a place to stay, some capital to use, some labor and some organization to expand, so the same is required in the service of Krishna. The only difference is that in materialism one works for sense gratification. " [BG 12. 11, purport]

I concluded my letter by saying that when Krishna sent me someone like King Asoka, who patronized Buddhism all over India in the 2nd century, then I would sit happily all afternoon with people like Peter, the printer, and teach them how to practice Krishna consciousness!

Later in the afternoon, Purusottam Krishna das came home and requested me to participate in a meeting at the University of Port Elizabeth that concerned his daughter, Josila. A first-year student at the university, she had objected to an assignment that her professor in Business Management had given in class. The assignment asked the students to develop a marketing strategy for a theoretical meat-packing company that was falling behind in sales. Josila had protested, first to the professor and then to the university administration, that writing such a paper conflicted with her religious beliefs as a member of the Hare Krishna Movement. Meat eating was sinful, she said, as it involved the cruel act of killing an innocent animal. In her heart she simply couldn't write a paper promoting such an evil act. Over several weeks she rallied the support of many students, and even lobbied a number of professors at the university. Her challenge became the talk of the campus.

As a result, the university called for what it described as an Extraordinary Meeting of the Forum for the Promotion of Equality. The meeting, consisting of senior professors representing both sides of the issue, as well as Josila and her father, was to gather evidence to present to a committee that would address students' grievances and attempt to find solutions. Purusottam Krishna wanted me to represent his daughter, as I think he was little awed by the august assembly of professors.

We arrived just as the meeting was about to begin. When I walked in with my bright saffron cloth and danda in hand, most of the professors stared at me in disbelief. One of them said softly to himself, "My God, what is this?"

I took my seat at the table along with Purusottam Krishna, but Josila was asked to wait outside by the Chairman for the duration of the meeting. He then gave a brief introduction about the purpose of the meeting, and asked each member to introduce themselves. One by one the professors announced who they were, and when my turn came I identified myself as a disciple of India's greatest spiritual emissary to the Western world, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. I explained that I was a sannyasi, a monk, visiting their country to introduce the teachings of India's great spiritual classic, the Bhagavad-gita. I spoke briefly about Srila Prabhupada's contribution in the field of literature, and concluded by saying I was honored to be present that afternoon. I actually surprised myself with my articulate introduction, and felt at ease when I saw several professors nod their heads in acknowledgment of my short presentation.

Then the debate began as to whether Josila had the right to refuse an assignment based on her religious convictions. Her business lecturer, Professor Boshoff, obviously disturbed that a young student had challenged him and made such a fuss all over campus, presented his point that the subject of promoting meat sales was nothing to get in an uproar about. "After all, the meat-packing industry is one of the most important and respected businesses in the world,” he said.

At that point, Professor Naidoo, the head of the Pharmacy Department, said he felt the whole issue could be avoided simply by changing the subject matter of the assignment from meat sales to clothing sales. But Professor Boshoff wouldn't accept that. Then the Chairman turned to me and asked if I would explain why Josila was so disturbed about writing an assignment on the promotion of meat.

Relishing the opportunity to address so many learned men and women, I stood up and began speaking slowly, choosing each and every word. Using sastric quotes and analogies, I explained the difference between the body and soul and elaborated on the theory of reincarnation. I went on to explain how there is a soul in every living creature, and thus killing animals is tantamount to murder. Noting that the professors were coming from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds (Christian, Muslim and Hindu), I concluded my talk with a punch: asking Josila to write about promoting the sale of meat was like asking a Christian to write about promoting the devil, a Jew to promote the Holocaust, and a Muslim to promote Mohammed as an ordinary man.

There was a prolonged silence when I finished. Finally, the Chairman asked if anyone had any questions for me. When a few professors spoke in support of what I had said, Professor Boshoff got up in a huff and walked out. The Chairman then closed the session, saying they would meet privately the next day to form a resolution. He then thanked Purusottam Krishna and I for coming, and we took our leave.

The next morning I received a call from the Chairman. He thanked me for participating in the discussion. He said my presentation had been the deciding factor in the committee's resolutions, which he would have delivered to Purusottam Krishna's house later in the day. That afternoon, a university car delivered to our door the following paper:

Resolutions of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Forum for Promotion of Equality:

1. The Department of Business Management be requested to find, in this case, an alternative assignment subject that is acceptable to the Krishna faith, but that is comparable, in all ways, to the current topic.

2. That from this point on, academics be asked to provide alternative topics for assignments where there is a possibility that the given subject may be offensive to minority groups.

3. Academics be asked to provide alternative questions in exam papers, where there is the possibility that the given subject may offend members of minority groups, such as the Krishna faith.

That evening myself, Purusottam Krishna and Josila had a little celebration. We had challenged a respectable academic institution's dealings with us, a religious minority, and had won. The professors involved had made their decision based on the teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It was a small, but clear victory for the sankirtan movement of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We hanker for more such opportunities in the service of His Divine Grace.

ceto darpana marjanam bhava maha davagni nirvapanam sreyah kairava candrika vitaranam vidya vadhu jivanam anandambudhi vardhanam prati padam purnamatasvadanam sarvatma snapanam param vijayate sri Krishna sankirtanam

"Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step. " [Siksatakam]

© CHAKRA 14-June-2001

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